I saw a miracle earlier this week.

I was driving through my favorite field on the way to work... the one where I come down a hill and around a corner, through a neckline of trees and then open up to a broad, flat swath of grass or grain or corn or tilled-over earth on the right, bounded by heavy oak forest, and on the left another flat swath ribbed by a thin strip of riparian along a creek, on the other side of which there is a long broad hill of field going up and over, all the way up to brush the sky.

And then, at the opposite end, where one tall cedar thrusts high above the rest, I saw it. A large hawk, perhaps six feet above the tip of that tree, suspended and unmoving. It just hovered, wings wide and poised without a tremble or a flutter, for maybe five or ten or a thousand seconds after I came around that bend, resting on some strange cushion of air. It was a photograph, stretched out... a frozen moment somehow arrested there for what seemed an eternity as I zipped down the hard grey scar of road through my favorite field, new-greened with spring.

There was no falter, but all of a sudden that hawk folded its wings in one fluid motion, sinking gently into that pillow to rest, perfectly, on the uppermost branch of that tree. I smiled, tucked this miracle up, and placed it carefully in my shirt-pocket, next to my nipple (or heart), so it could vibrate there throughout my day.

But then, things began to happen. A kid I have tried to reach with love all year kept giving me, metaphorically speaking, a different kind of bird, and someone I shared a campus with a long time ago wrote a blog post about losing a lot of hope and belief as he lived through Easter in a genocidal world. Someone else said on the radio how they want to Saint the last Pope, and someone else said maybe not, because of all those priests with all those children that they hurt on his watch, and besides-besides-besides, what about the questions all those other people have about how maybe his confirmed miracle - the nun who prayed to him and got better - maybe it wasn't really a miracle at all? How maybe, after all, there isn't a miracle out there that a centrifuge and electron microscope can't disprove.

And then today - when I was stressed-running artwork to some Republican Congresswoman's office for yet another competition for my students to enter to try to prove their creations are somehow better and more valuable than those of the kids at our rival school down the road - I listened to the radio again, where some literate-sounding people talked about Charlotte Bronte's writing, with her long, long sentences and her insistence that what novels needed was more poetry, and I thought... YES! and then NO! and then "maybe," and wouldn't that be a miracle... more poetry?

Then I thought again about a genocidal world and I thought, YES-YES-YES, oh alum-compatriot, the world is a stinking heap of goat manure - yes! But I have raised goats, and I know this also to be true: that if you leave that manure long enough, it makes crystals: gorgeous ammonia-crystals that can't be made in any other way.

Is it worth it... for all that goat manure? Is it worth gouging the earth and covering it with tar and rocks and sand and clearing it all out into a mega-field drenched in chemical fertilizers, all so that this last week I, Josh Barkey, could alone in a universe of ugliness and despair be there to see that miraculous bird?

A fool says in heart and mouth a lot of things when he should probably just keep still, but I will risk to sound the fool and say that though it may be all be ugly-true and goat manure: still... there are miracles.


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